‘Mattress Mack,’ Fort Bend County community leaders launch initiative to address unemployment

Claire Goodman

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture, has created an employment resource center to help the jobless find meaningful employment in Fort Bend County. Joining his endeavor is a task force comprised of local leaders and philanthropies including Fort Bend County Judge KP George, Fort Bend County Precinct Four Commissioner Ken DeMerchant, Dr. Connie Almeida, director of Fort Bend Behavioral Health Services, the Houston Food Bank and the WorkTexas program

McIngvale’s program is about more than helping people find a job. The resource center focuses on the full spectrum of needs relating to unemployment.

The initiative involves a three-fold approach to aiding the jobless in the community. The first involves helping people get jobs. The second addresses the mental health issues associated with unemployment, and the third eases the nutritional insecurity of families facing hunger due to lack of income.

“COVID-19 left many without jobs in Fort Bend County, but the jobs are coming back,” George noted. “What we need to do now is connect the people of Fort Bend County with those jobs.”

At a news conference at the Gallery Furniture located on Grand Parkway on June 10, McIngvale and his team discussed the employment needs in Fort Bend County and explained how their collaboration would operate and serve the community.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw, representative for District 2, though not an official member of the taskforce, also spoke in support of the resource center.

“A lot of companies laid off a lot of workers, but other companies are hiring,” Crenshaw said. “They just need to be connected, and this is exactly where you can go for that.”

The Work Texas Job Center is at the core of the initiative. In addition to helping individuals find work places that are hiring, the center offers human relations resources like coaching and support to help job seekers get hired.

“We’ve got great HR resources out here,” McIngvale explained. “They’ll help you get your resumes dolled up. We’ve got people here to help with mock interviews, and we’re going to create LinkedIn profiles to help people get jobs.”

The initiative also offers mental health counseling and treatment. “This pandemic of COVID-19 has caused lots of mental health crisis in our communities,” McIngvale noted. “We’ve got professionals that can help you with anxiety or stress and can refer you to the right professionals to help you with your mental health issues.”

Mental health assistance will be provided by Fort Bend Behavioral Health Services. Almeida stated that her organization is dedicated to helping individuals struggling with mental illness, but it takes a collaborative effort from multiple fronts to address mental illness on a broader scale. “We can’t do this on our own. It takes a partnership,” she said.

Gallery Furniture will also partner with the Houston Food Bank to distribute nutritious meals to the public.

According to Nicole Lander, chief impact officer for Houston Food Bank, before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in four families in Fort Bend County were facing food insecurity. Now that unemployment rates are up and schools are closed, the number of families without adequate nutrition has increased even more.

That lack of nutrition creates a cycle of hunger.

“Food is a key essential ingredient for people to be able to be healthy, to show up to work and do their job properly,” she said.

George added that the food distribution project is hoping to feed 1,500 families.

Job coaching and support is available at Gallery Furniture Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments are preferred but not necessary.

Fort Bend County Behavioral Health Services will be available at Gallery Furniture Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to identify needs and appropriate mental health resources. Appointments are not necessary.

In partnership with the Houston Food Bank, Fort Bend County residents can receive free meals through a contactless appointment meal distribution from 2-7 p.m. on June 12, June 16, June 19 and June 23.

Read the original story here: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/neighborhood/katy/news/article/Mattress-Mack-Fort-Bend-County-community-15333964.php